Teen Fulfilling a Dream Raising Awareness

RSS

2006 Ginn OpenREUNION, Fla. -- After Kelly Jo Dowd was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in four years last May, she started setting aside days to spend with her 13-year-old daughter, Dakoda.
 
Sometimes they shop. Sometimes they get manicures and pedicures. Sometimes they just hang out and listen to music. Regardless of the mother/daughter day agenda, they try to create a lasting memory.
 
Theres a good chance the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open will provide an experience even more special for them.
 
Dakoda Dowd received a sponsors exemption to play in the event near Orlando, fulfilling her mothers dying wish to see her little girl compete against the worlds best. She will tee off Thursday in the opening round. (See Dakoda's Scorecard)
 
I dont even know how to explain it, Kelly Jo said Wednesday. This is a dream come true for me, and if youve ever had a dream come true for you, you know its very intense emotions that go along with it. I know that Ill break down. There will be tears of joy and tears of happiness.
 
Dakowda Dowd
Dakoda Dowd is paired with Kate Golden and Tracy Hanson in the first two rounds this week.
Dakoda has spent the last six months preparing for the event. She played the course several times and handled numerous interviews, all in hopes of making this a defining moment for her and her cancer-stricken mother.
 
Six months turned into like six days, said the bubbly teen with plenty of game. It went by really fast. Ill be nervous, but I cant wait.
 
The full-field event includes Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and just about everyone else in the top 50 on the money list.
 
But Dakoda has received more attention than any of them, and for good reason.
 
She started playing golf when she was 4, using cut-down clubs and taking tips from her father, Mike. But it didnt take long for her to start getting around courses better than him.
 
She took lessons, continued to improve and eventually won countless junior events. She started thinking about competing on the LPGA Tour, but she never thought it would happen this soon.
 
Her mother made it possible.
 
A former Hooters calendar girl who worked her way into the companys management team, Kelly Jo noticed a lump in her breast in 2001. At first, she didnt do anything about it. Ten months later, at age 36, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy, nearly two dozen lymph nodes removed and endured intense chemotherapy.
 
She thought she had it beat'until last May, when doctors found the cancer had returned and was much worse than before. It was in her hip bone, her liver and was nearing her spine.
 
Bobby Ginn, the CEO of Ginn Clubs and Resorts, heard about the familys fight and extended Dakoda an invitation to play in the inaugural event.
 
We had to decide: Are we going to shy away or stand up? said Mike Dowd, a school counselor in Palm Harbor. We decided that we wanted to stand up. We wanted to get the message out there. Its very important to be able to say to women, Do your shower exams, get your mammograms and love each other and persevere through this.
 
We cant kid anybody. This is an extremely difficult thing were dealing with as a family, but Ive got great women.
 
Dakoda has handled the attention well. She played a practice round Tuesday with Sorenstam and Paula Creamer and seemed unfazed by the cameras and reporters following her every move and all the interviews that came after.
 
The key for her is just to come out, enjoy it, absorb the atmosphere, Sorenstam said. Its a fantastic place to be. I told her, Enjoy this week. This is what this is all about. Its more about being part of the whole thing and just being able to fulfill a dream. Its pretty cool.
 
Dakoda has no misconceptions about her main goal this week. Its not competing for the title or making the cut or shooting a low score. This is about much more'just like those mother-daughter days.
 
Im not sure what Im going to shoot, she said. Its just a great experience. Im just looking forward to my mom being there and whatever happens, happens.
 
Related Links
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.